Meet the Hot Desk Fellows: Round Three, 2013

A new round of Hot Desk Fellows takes residence at the Wheeler Centre today – and their projects range from a non-fiction investigation of illegal drugs and the dark zones of the internet, to an in-depth essay on Indigenous theatre and a bilingual play that explores migration.

Meet the fellows – and their projects.

Justin Heazlewood

Funemployed (non-fiction)

Justin Heazlewood is best known by his musical/comic persona as The Bedroom Philosopher. He has self-funded and released four albums, staged five festival shows, and toured Australia extensively. He was a senior contributor to Frankie magazine for several years, and has appeared at Women of Letters.

Justin is currently writing the book Funemployed, which will be published by Affirm Press – he’s about to embark on his third draft, and has ‘several structural changes to make’. His book focuses on ‘the grittiness of life as an artist in Australia, from surviving financially and emotionally, to sustaining a career in a country with a notoriously small population and conservative market’.

Justin is looking forward to meeting fellow writers during his fellowship, and hopes to gain extra insight and perspective that could help the book – and to build his literary networks.

‘There has been a groundswell of debate recently about how much writers should be getting paid. I am hoping this book will be an important contribution to the subject,’ he says.

Dione Joseph

Indigenous Poetics of Performance (essay)

Director and performer Dione Joseph has been moving into writing about the theatre world in which she is an active participant. Over the past four years, she has published several reviews of performing arts, with a focus on Indigenous artists.

She is working on an essay that she hopes will later form a chapter in a book on Indigenous theatre, sharing her insights from her various roles, and from the close relationships she has formed with several Indigenous artists.

The essay will argue for the need to reconsider aesthetics (and the weighty history of its Eurocentric aphorisms) in the context of developing a new critical vocabulary for Australian theatre. As part of her work, she will examine three theatre companies and their recent work: Of Earth and Sky by Bangarra dance theatre, Jack Charles vs. the Crown by Ilbijerri and Namatjira by Big hART.

‘This project is very personal to me,’ says Dione. ‘I have invested the past few years into exploring how Indigenous theatre is received here in Australia and I believe the conversation does need new voices who are able to speak both from an artistic perspective and do so with academic rigour and creative expression.’

Jacinta Le Plastrier

The Book of Skins (poetry)

Jacinta Le Plastier is working on ‘The Book of Skins’, a 20-part poem-cycle, centrepiece of a new poetry volume, also to be called The Book of Skins, to be published by John Leonard Press in late 2013.

The volume will collect individual poems, cycles, prose poetry and prose written and published over the past two decades, as well as several new, unpublished poems.

‘The Book of Skins’ cycle is conceived ‘after’ the lifetime work and oeuvre of French-Jewish poet Edmond Jabès (1912-1991), whose endeavours concentrated on multiple volumes revolving around ‘the book’. His work is usually interlocutory and often features a ‘sage’ identity who is in dialogue with the poet.

But while Jabès provides the ‘diving board’ from which ‘The Book of Skins’ cycle launches, the in-progress poems immediately track off into their own presence. They explore the relationship between the writer/poet and poetic language/the book and how this mirrors (or does not mirror) the relationship between a lover and their ‘beloved’.

Jacinta publishes monthly essays on poetry, literature, culture and politics on Cordite’s Guncotton blog. Her poems have been published in Meanjin, Masthead, Overland and Blast and anthologised in collections for Penguin, Picador and Oxford.

Dan Giovannoni

Jurrasica (play)

Dan Giovannoni is a multi-award-winning playwright whose accolades include Best Emerging Writer at the Melbourne Fringe (2011). He is currently working on a bilingual play, Jurassica, which uses two languages to speak of the gaping chasm between two generations – a place where stories and connection have been lost.

It tells the parallel stories of two migrants: Ralph, an Italian who came to Australia in the 1950s as part of the ‘populate or perish’ scheme (and the generations that follow him) and Katja, a Serbian interpreter who fled war-torn Belgrade in the mid-90s. Set in a village deep in the Tuscan countryside, and in the Alfred Hospital in metropolitan Melbourne, Jurassica interweaves the past and the present to explore what it is to migrate, to be displaced, and to spend the rest of your life searching for home.

‘Conceptually, Jurassica is primarily an attempt to locate my grief in regards to my family’s migration, and the disconnect that I experience between my own Australian identity and my Italian heritage,’ says Dan. ‘It taps into my desire to establish some connection with a past that isn’t mine, that I only know through stories, and a present with which I do not fully identify – I am not an Italian, I am not an Australian.’

Dan says the Wheeler Centre fellowship, with its CBD location, will allow ready access to the archives of the State Library of Victoria and the Immigration Museum, time to transcribe family interviews, and the opportunity to talk about the project with others, which he calls ‘a great benefit’.

Eileen Ormsby

Silk Road: the beginning of the end of prohibition? (non-fiction)

A literary speed dating event hosted at the Wheeler Centre was the beginning of ‘every writer’s dream’ for Eileen Ormsby – a book contract, with Pan Macmillan.

Eileen’s passion for drug reform and interest in cybercrime has driven her journalism, with several feature articles published in the Age, two features in Kill Your Darlings.

Here’s a sample of what the book’s about:

The so-called War on Drugs has been an abject failure. Zero tolerance policies have led to untold deaths, from the bloodshed of the drug cartels in Central and South America, to the user on the street who has no way of determining the purity of what he has bought.

Against this backdrop of prohibition rises Silk Road, a website that provides a marketplace for illicit drugs, bringing together end users and sellers. Users have the protection of an eBay-like feedback system and independent reports on the quality of the drugs, while sellers have the protection of absolute anonymity.

Led by the articulate and charismatic Dread Pirate Roberts (real name, gender, location a mystery, a veritable Banksy of the black markets), in its two-year existence, Silk Road has grown from an obscure site on the darknet accessible by few, to a thriving business, with a turnover of $22 million and growing.

Although making up a minuscule part of international drug trade, the solidity of the model, the inability of authorities to shut it down and it’s ever-growing, mainly white-collar customer base is cause for a rethink on drug policy.

‘I have until 16 December 2013 to write an 80,000-word non-fiction book,’ says Eileen. ‘Having only commenced my writing career last year, this is both thrilling and terrifying.’


The Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowships are designed to give writers space to work on their projects, and made possible by the generous support of the Readings Foundation. In 2013, twenty writers were offered a $1000 stipend and a workspace in the Wheeler Centre over a two month period.